Industrial Trip to Nestle by Arisha Faiyas

Back in the bus after our tour was over, there was one thing we could all agree on: the image of  our guide snatching a blanched, unbelievably soggy Maggi noodle cake from the conveyor belt,  and letting us touch it before immediately ripping it into pieces will forever become a core  memory in our lives. “Cows eat instant noodles” was probably not the takeaway we anticipated  from the tour, but this kind of unexpected revelation is what makes an industrial tour all the more  intimate. Our tour started with introductions and small-talk from Nestle representatives. There was a  retired military personnel, food safety officer, business major, and engineers both veteran and  newbie. My family has no STEM majors besides doctors, so being an aspiring environmental  engineer, this was the exposure I craved for long. We went through a half-hour long  presentation about Nestle and a briefing on our actual tour. Finally, we got to don our PPEs and  ill-fitting safety shoes and marched ahead behind our guides! At first, we got into the biochemical lab. Although each Nestle product has its own specialized  testing lab in specific countries, initial screening is first done locally to maintain food safety. We  were then taken into the sensory board. Here food products are blindly tasted by a selected  committee to maintain a standard taste. Product shelf-lives are also determined here. Then came the long awaited visit to the production room. Our guide showed us its  manufacturing from mixing the dough to packaging. The dough, after being thinly flattened and  sliced, is instantly shaped into its recognisable coiled form. It is then boiled, cooled, fried and  dried before being wrapped in a clear plastic packet. A high-end metal detector checks for metal  contamination. Spice packets are automatically added to each cake, and any packet without the  spice is automatically rejected. All noodle wastes are used as cattle fodder (as our guide  demonstrated overzealously). Afterwards 4, 6, 8, 16 packets are encapsulated accordingly, and  a program makes sure each pack meets the weight measurements. The noodle packs were  then assembled in cartons for shipping. Thereafter, we were taken to Nestle’s water treatment facility. As SJWP finalists, water  management is our forte. We asked our guides a fusillade of questions, and every question we  asked was met with descriptive answers. We discussed how Nestle’s water management could  be made even more efficient, better technology, and their financial implications. Nestle has two water treatment systems. One for blackwater, which is treated and expelled, and  the other for greywater from industrial and human use, which is recycled. Over the years, Nestle has gone from disposing of all their waste water, to slowly recycling more and more of the  waste. Both the waters are stored in vats with circulating fans and mixed with active sludge  (bacteria) to break down biological contaminants. After a few days the water is left to settle  down for the sludge to separate from the cleaner water. Treated black water is let out into a sand-gravel pit for it to filter out further and mix with water  bodies. On the other hand, the greywater is taken into a silo where it is aerated and further  circulated to separate leftover wastes and bacteria. Then it is cleaned through reverse osmosis  and used for cooling machinery, steaming products and as flush-water. Reject water from the  osmosis is used for gardening. An industrial tour is not so much about the factory itself as much it is about the unification of the  starry-eyed learners and seasoned specialists. No matter how much we laughed about it, in the  end our tour had us talking about issues most people will not discuss casually: marketing,  pollution, worker rights and democracy. I felt privileged to have that conversation at all, as most  people are still not aware of the drastic implications of our actions on our environment and the  near future.  For me, the biggest impact of this trip was how it shifted my perception of environmental  engineering. Up until that point, I only knew about their general duties, not what it could look like  in an actual worksite with a specific set of duties. The fact that I felt competent enough to  engage with the industry experts of a multinational company really boosted my enthusiasm for  the field. Thus our “tour” came to an end. We were given lunch (sadly no Nestle products). And then we  had to take pictures in the July sun where we almost got baked alive. We took some time to  unwind, and got into the bus again for Dhaka. Writer: Arisha Faiyas